Matthew 21 – No Flashbang

Matthew 21 Bible with Endangered Species Dark Chocolate with Cranberries and Almonds

Today’s ChocolateEndangered Species 72% Dark Chocolate with Cranberries and Almonds

Today’s PassageMatthew 21

I’ve been noticing something about Jesus’ miracles as we read through Matthew. They tend not to be flashy, like silver-screen superpowers or the special effects for magic in my console RPGs. They lack theatricality and ostentation. They’re subtle, and Jesus often tells the witnesses to keep it quiet about the miracle. (Sometimes the witnesses even comply with his request.) And the only times he pulls out all the stops, like the transfiguration, the only people present are a few of the apostles. But today’s chapter starts off with just such a miracle: Jesus tells his disciples where to find a donkey, they go, and lo and behold, there’s a donkey precisely there.

A number of miracles we’ve seen fit into this category. Consider Matthew 17:24-27, where some tax collectors stop by the house in Capernaum where Jesus and Peter are staying. Jesus instructs Peter: “Go to the sea, and throw in a hook, and take the first fish that comes up; and when you open its mouth, you will find a stater. Take that and give it to them for you and me” (17:27). Like the event with the donkey, this is the sort of thing that could be a coincidence or lucky guess. But if it were, what a vastly improbable coincidence or absurdly lucky guess it would be. And Jesus’ behavior hints at this kind of bizarre insider knowledge on more than one occasion.

Not that Jesus’ miracles can’t be overtly impressive. He’s shown command over nature before, as when he calms the storm at sea that he was previously sleeping through (8:23-27), or when he calms the storm at sea after walking on it (15:22-33). In instances like this, he issues a command to creation, and creation obeys. But in today’s chapter, it’s another low-key mastery over nature. Jesus curses a fig tree that has no figs for him: “‘No longer shall there ever be any fruit from you.’ And at once the fig tree withered” (21:19). And bizarrely, Jesus tells the disciples that they, too, can exhibit this command over the created world, even telling mountains to hurl themselves into the sea. All it takes is trust in the God who made the mountain.

(That may be a bit of an oversimplification. I trust in God, yet have never convinced any mountains to pitch themselves into oceans. But Jesus doesn’t dwell on why God might not will us to be directing geographical features into bodies of water left and right, or why if we properly understand God’s will we might trust that he has good reason for making such bizarre phenomena the exception to the rule. So neither will I dwell on these points. Let’s move on.)

There’s a final category of miracle, which Jesus often performs without much showmanship, but which is impressive in its own right. I’m talking about the healings, which are often performed en masse. Consider today’s instance: “And the blind and the lame came to Him in the temple, and He healed them” (21:14). Jesus restores the victims of the cosmos’ brokenness to proper order. Human beings were meant to see and walk. Adam didn’t have any trouble looking over the animals as he named them; he was perfectly able to walk through the Garden with his Creator. What sin has twisted out of joint in the world, Jesus bends back into place.

And in this last category, it doesn’t matter if there’s no blinding flash of light, no thunderclap accompanying the healing. It doesn’t have to be cinematic. The recipients of Jesus’ miraculous compassion are impressed not by the grandiosity of his displays. No, they’re impressed to be back on their feet, or free from demonic influence, or seeing again. They’re impressed by his love.

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